A few years ago I interviewed Olivia Thirlby on the set of The Wackness. I don't remember much of what we discussed other than Greenwich Village in the '90s, specifically St. Mark's Place, and how upset we both were about Giuliani's white-washing of the city. The thing is, our conversation never went anywhere, because Thirlby at the time wasn't a big enough name to get quoted or spotlighted where Sir Ben Kingsley and former Nickelodeon star Josh Peck would be favored.

By the time The Wackness arrived in theaters, the young actress still wasn't rising as I'd expected. In spite of her supporting appearances in the very popular Juno and the critically popular Snow Angels and the occasional magazine showcase, Thirlby remained an indie staple, yet mainly for films nobody heard about. She appears in the new film Breaking Upwards, which sold out shows this past weekend in NYC, and soon she'll be seen in Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret with Matt Damon and Anna Paquin -- but again, she's not either film's lead.

Her recognition and star status could change very soon, however, as Heat Vision reports she's been cast as one of the leads in a sci-fi action movie called The Darkest Hour, to be produced by Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) helmed by former art director Chris Gorak (Minority Report). Thirlby will play a "trust fund girl" who joins other Americans visiting Moscow when the city is attacked by aliens. It's not clear how many others will be in this group, which goes on to "defeat the invaders," but whatever the actress' capacity it's certainly the biggest role for her to date.

And then what could happen? There may be a reason she didn't become the "next big thing" in 2008, outside of her films' lack of popularity (Juno aside). She was cast as Seth Rogen's high school girlfriend in Pineapple Express but was replaced after rehearsals began. She tried unsuccessfully to get major roles in Justice League (clearly she's all wrong for Wonder Woman) and Speed Racer (she doesn't have that anime look Christina Ricci has). She's also said in the past that she doesn't want to be famous and would see doing a studio film as a "foothold to climb."

She is only 23, which means there's still plenty of time for Thirlby to break out, as many had thought she would two years ago. Depending on the angle she's photographed from, she reminds me of either Anne Hathaway or a young Olivia Williams. I can see her having a career more like the latter, maybe showing up in minor roles in blockbusters like X-Men: The Last Stand while having more significant parts in less mainstream stuff like An Education and The Ghost Writer. She's not really Bride Wars and Get Smart material and yet she's not yet a good enough actress to pull off a Rachel Getting Married, either.

But maybe she'll show us something in The Darkest Hour that clears a path toward her being an action star?